Writers & Social Media

You have to market yourself*


As writers we know we must show and not tell the reader what is happening.

This goes for real life, too.

A short while ago I wrote about how I call myself a writer now.

But then it occurred to me. Even though I call myself a writer, I don’t actually show people I write.

I didn’t even have ‘writer’ in my Twitter or Instagram description. And when I landed myself an agent a few years ago I said nothing publicly online. Just quietly added the name of my agent to my bio. (Why did I do that? If I had that time again I’d shout it with a social media megaphone. It is major.)

It’s all very well and good just quietly writing in the pre-social media age. A writer will write. Then they’ll edit. And post the manuscript out in a large envelope to try and get published. Their hopes and dreams sliding into the red post box.

And no one needs to ever know.

But it’s all different now.

The internet has made things both easier and harder. Yes you can create a blog. Yes you can self publish. Press the button and it’s out there.

Yet the amount of content online can be overwhelming. There is so much noise. You have to shout loudly in order to get yourself heard. Its like sticking up your hand in class and saying me, me, me.

You imagine disdainful faces turning slowly your way. You? You think that’s any good? And this can be very uncomfortable.

A friend of a friend asked me for some advice a couple of years ago after they’d self published a novel. Get on the internet, I said. Get on twitter, find other writers, find book bloggers. But she didn’t. She didn’t feel comfortable doing that. And she didn’t feel she should sell her novel at a promotional price, either. So her novel didn’t sell. Because no one knew she was there.

And I can understand that. I really can. When I first started blogging I told no one. And I was so reluctant to get onto facebook and twitter. If I hadn’t, incidentally, I’d never have found other writers, never have found (paid) writing work and never would have found an agent.

I read an excellent blog post about this by Emma Gannon some months ago. Tell people you exist Emma writes. With a follow up post called market your own work, because no one else will.

It’s all very well being a writer. And writing brilliant and insightful things. But then you have to go out there and tell people you’ve written it. A publisher, an editor, an agent and, crucially, potential readers are not going to know about you, unless you tell them.

You have to be your own marketing manager, PR adviser, social media guru.

Please believe me when I say I know how unsettling this thought is.

But you have to show people what you write. And by this I don’t mean constant tweeting of your amazon link. Write other things other than your novel. Maybe it’s a blog post, an Instagram feed with beautiful words in the captions, or you’ve discovered Steller and put your words and pictures on there. Maybe you write short stories on twitter as a thread.

Give the readers something for free. Build up your engagement. Show people they can trust you. Demonstrate that you write things they care about on a consistent basis.

And yes, mention your book occasionally.

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  • Reply Claire Wingfield

    Yes, absolutely. And one thing I think is that it’s important to acknowledge what we read online. I’ve been making myself slow down and leave comments on writing that has inspired me, or cheered me in some way. So: thank you for writing this. (I am an editor and the author of ’52 Dates for Writers…Ride a Tandem, Assume an Alias and 50 Other Ways to Improve Your Novel Draft.’)

    20th April 2016 at 9:44 pm
    • Reply Helen Redfern

      Thank you, Claire. I agree we should all slow down and comment. It is heartening for the writer when they know their words have hit home.

      26th April 2016 at 8:07 am
  • Reply Carlie

    Hey! Whilst I completely agree that you’ve got to promote yourself, I’d say be very wary of becoming too deeply attached to interaction that doesn’t repay its investment. It’s so easy to lose an hour on twitter, instead of writing, particularly a novel, particularly when you’re a bit bogged down.
    Ps. Sorry for the shouty caps…no idea what’s going on there…
    Pps. Very much looking forward to anything you publish, especially if it’s got good grub in it!

    26th April 2016 at 6:54 am
    • Reply Helen Redfern

      Oh I completely agree, Carlie. Spending hours on twitter is counter productive. Funnily enough my next post addresses why we need to market ourselves and how.

      26th April 2016 at 8:06 am
  • Reply Sarah @ say little hen

    Yes you srw doing it & well done you! I don’t always comment but I love your writing Helen, keep up the excellent work xx

    16th May 2016 at 2:34 pm
    • Reply Helen Redfern

      Thank you!

      17th May 2016 at 7:01 pm

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